IISCThe Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities is a campus-wide, engaged learning program housed in the Graduate College at the University of Iowa.  IISC invests University of Iowa faculty and student time
to increase the capacity of Iowa communities and to help them plan for a sustainable future. By taking students out of the classroom and into communities to complete real-world projects, IISC accomplishes two university-wide goals: enhancing sustainability across the state and transforming teaching and learning at the University of Iowa.  To view current projects and past partnerships, visit http://iisc.uiowa.edu.


More than 100 University of Iowa faculty, staff, and students are focusing their attention on the Waterloo community this academic year, completing community-based projects designed to address local needs and opportunities.

The Iowa Initiative for Sustainable Communities (IISC) at the University of Iowa, now in its 11th year, partners with one or two communities annually to complete projects related to local environmental, equity, economic, and cultural issues.  Waterloo and Manchester were selected as community partners for the 2020-21 academic year.  Over the course of the partnerships, graduate and advanced undergraduate teams will contribute more than 10,000 hours to locally-identified projects in each community.  Students from a variety of disciplines will work alongside community leaders and residents to complete the projects. 

OverviewSo far, IISC has matched 17 Waterloo projects with departments across the University of Iowa campus, including Law, Planning and Public Affairs, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Art, Business, Criminology, Geography, Rhetoric, and Cinema Arts. 

“IISC is thrilled to be partnering with Waterloo.  It’s a special place, and the long list of accomplishments in recent years demonstrates that the community has strong leadership and engaged residents,” said Travis Kraus, director of the IISC and Associate Professor in the University of Iowa School of Planning & Public Affairs. “Waterloo has also proposed many challenging and meaningful project collaborations, which will provide our students with the kind of invaluable learning experiences we look for in these partnerships.”    

“Our partnership with the University through this program provides incredible value to Waterloo,” says Mayor Quentin Hart. “We gain the expertise of the faculty and the fresh perspectives of the students while engaging our citizens in plans and projects to further improve the quality of life for everyone in the community. These projects will have impact well into the future.”

Communications Director Wendy Bowman is the partnership coordinator for the City of Waterloo. Several projects are already underway, including a Church Row Neighborhood Plan, an impact study for the Fair Chance Initiative, housing studies, short film documentaries, a design of a stormwater management system for flood-prone areas of the city, and more.  Other projects in development include a public art installation, a criminal justice study of mental health, a civil rights oral history database, design of a Prairie Trail Bridge replacement, marketing for the Waterloo Public Library, a Fire Rescue risk assessment, and others. 

Kraus says that despite the coronavirus pandemic, IISC is finding ways to visit Waterloo safely and also relying on video conferencing.  The pandemic hasn’t dampened the enthusiasm coming from students, he added.